Facing Rashid in ‘nets’ helped, says Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan showed great confidence against Afghanistan spinners and pacers. AFP

Shikhar Dhawan looked out of his depth in the seaming and bouncy conditions of South Africa where he picked up scores of 16 and 16 in Cape Town in the last Test he played in January. But back in the familiar home conditions, the opener was at his belligerent best.

Confident against pace and dominant against spinners, the southpaw blasted his way to a 96-ball 107 (19x4, 3x6) and in the process became the first Indian batsman to score a century in the first session of day’s play here on Thursday.  

“Yeah, it feels great,” said Dhawan when asked about his rare feat. “Of course I didn’t know that nobody (no Indian) had scored 100 in a session (lunch) but once I came back (to the change room), I read the news on TV and I am grateful about it.”

His breezy innings had put India in complete command of the match before a battling Afghanistan pulled things back with a valiant show in the final session of the opening day of their maiden Test. While Rashid Khan and others combined to peg away at Indian batsmen in the last stretch of play, Dhawan had hardly given a whiff to the tourists with an aggressive approach. His duel with Rashid was particularly entertaining with the Delhi batsman completely dominating the leg-spinner.

“Yeah, they came back very well in the last session,” acknowledged Dhawan of the session when India lost five for 99. “Of course they are playing their first game, I am sure they are going to learn a lot of things. They are going to go a long way ahead. As for Rashid, he is a top-class bowler and I enjoyed my battles with him. Since I dominated (the battle), I enjoyed it but as I said, he is a great bowler,” he remarked.

Familiarity with Rashid’s bowling, Dhawan pointed out, helped him handle better than anyone else. Dhawan and the Afghan play for Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Indian opener has faced him many times in practice.

“I just went with the flow,” he said of his handling of Rashid. “The good thing is that I had faced him in nets for two years because we play for the same team in IPL. That was one advantage I had. So, I was used to his bowling and that helped me. Also, if you look at my style of play, even in the Test series in Sri Lanka (in 2017) I played with same mindset -- positive mindset. I was in good touch in IPL and glad I have continued that here. It was good,” said a beaming Dhawan.

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Facing Rashid in ‘nets’ helped, says Dhawan

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